A Wink and a Nod

Nehemiah 13:1, 3 “On that day they read aloud from the book of Moses in the hearing of the people; and there was found written in it that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God … So when they heard the law, they excluded all foreigners from Israel.”

Observation: The “day” of Nehemiah 13:1 refers to one of the greatest days of celebration in the history of Israel—the dedication of the rebuilt wall of Jerusalem. In the previous chapter a truly exuberant celebration was planned. Priests and Levites had been purified along with all the people, the gates, and the wall. In the midst of such extensive party preparations, they did a profoundly risky thing: they read from the word of God, and then decided to actually do what it commanded. What they read was, “No Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God.” What they then did was to “exclude all foreigners from Israel.” From Israel! Not just from the dedication party in Jerusalem or from a religious service, but from the nation itself!

Application: Who were these excluded ones, anyway? “All foreigners” meant those who had attached themselves to Israel through commerce, as well as family members. Exodus 12:38 said that a “mixed multitude” left Egypt along with the exiting Jews. Deuteronomy 23:2–3 made clear that no foreigner was to be among the assembly. Numbers 11:4 says during the flight from Egypt those foreigners had first begun to complain about leaving behind Egypt’s comforts. What could this possibly be telling us? Is it suggesting that even established families were to be either torn apart or exiled? As hard as it may be to believe, the answer is yes. God cares deeply about foundations. He had forbidden intermarriage with non-Jews. So here at the reestablishment of the nation, they decided to take Him seriously, excluding all foreigners from the land.

Is this any harder than the purity He requires of me today? I cling to the nice surroundings I have created and then credit Him with giving me these diversions. I justify pursuits that compromise my walk with God, and deeply hope He will be content with a wink and a nod in His direction. But He is the eternal, unchanging one. It is I who must surrender, not God. It is I who must yield. It is I who must finally abandon my separating pursuits if I am to know the Father’s full embrace.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I know You really aren’t going to change. You have said what we must do to be wholeheartedly connected to You, and You are uncompromising. Forgive me, Lord, for my efforts to live with one foot in the world and then wonder why I am not firmly established in Your kingdom. Fill me with such a clear vision of You that all else will fade into insignificance in Your brilliance and beauty.

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